Scott Walker: Transportation Chameleon

Governor-elect is top recipient of campaign donations from road builders

November 15, 2010

Madison – As recently as August, newly elected Governor Scott Walker said he opposed toll roads. Now he supports them. Walker used to like trains. Now he’s against them, petitioning the federal government to allow Wisconsin to use over $800 million earmarked for high-speed rail for “crumbling” roads and bridges instead.

Fueling suspicions of stash-for-stand politics is the fact that Walker is the state’s leading recipient of campaign contributions from road builders, receiving nearly half of all the money doled out by the industry to candidates for statewide office and the legislature. The governor-elect has received more than four times as much as the second-ranked recipient, Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (Table 1).

A Wisconsin Democracy Campaign analysis shows Walker received over $109,000 in campaign support from road builders, including $84,793 in direct campaign contributions between January 2009 and August 30, 2010 (Table 2). In addition, the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association gave the Republican Governors Association $25,000 on March 10, a few weeks after Walker flew to Florida last February to address the road builder lobby’s annual meeting. The RGA spent millions of dollars on negative broadcasts ads and mailings supporting Walker and attacking his opponent Tom Barrett in the governor’s race.

Walker’s share of road builder contributions was 45 percent of the $188,423 the special interest group donated to all candidates for statewide office and the legislature during the period.

Walker got nearly a fourth of his total contributions – $20,300 – in just one month when he met with the road builders in Florida. Walker’s latest haul from road builders was substantially more than what he got from this special interest group the first time he ran for governor and earlier when he was an Assembly representative and twice voted for state budgets that supported passenger rail projects. Walker accepted $2,050 in 2005 when he was an unsuccessful GOP candidate for governor in the 2006 race. Walker also accepted $2,550 from 1993 through 2001 when he was an Assembly representative who voted for former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson 1993-95 state budget to commit $50 million for passenger rail from Madison to Milwaukee or Milwaukee to Green Bay. He also supported Thompson’s 1997 state budget which exempted passenger train projects from the normal state bidding process.

Walker now says he opposes the $810 million Milwaukee-to-Madison high-speed train project because of the estimated $7.5 million a year it would cost to operate it even though federal aid has picked up 90 percent of the operating costs of other passenger rail lines. The project’s construction costs will be paid for with federal dollars. Walker also says the state needs to spend the federal train money on state roads and bridges, but it would take congressional approval to do that and federal transportation officials say the cash will be given to rail projects in other states if Wisconsin dumps the project.

Outgoing Democratic Governor Jim Doyle says stopping the project would cost the state hundreds of jobs in the near term and about $100 million dollars in project contracts already signed and improvements to existing train facilities for the Milwaukee to Chicago passenger line.

Table 1
Campaign Contributions* From Road Builders To Officeholders
And Candidates for Statewide Office And The Legislature
2009 – August 30, 2010

Candidate Party Office Amount
Scott Walker R G $84,793
J.B. Van Hollen R AG $21,100
Tom Barrett D G $11,250
Jim Doyle D G $9,125
Kathleen Vinehout D S31 $5,250
Don Pridemore R A99 $5,000
Tom Tiffany R A35 $4,350
Randy Hopper R S18 $4,000
Jim Sullivan D S05 $3,850
Russ Decker D S29 $3,620
Mark Gundrum R A84 $3,250
Rebecca Kleefisch R LG $2,800
Tim Cullen D S15 $2,200
Leah Vukmir R S05 $2,000
Pat Kreitlow D S23 $1,750
Mark Radcliffe D A92 $1,735
Scott Gunderson R A83 $1,700
Mark Neumann R G $1,350
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee D A $1,100
Brett Davis R LG $1,100
Roger Anclam D A45 $1,000
Scott Fitzgerald R S13 $1,000
Tim Lakin R A52 $1,000
Robert Lorge R LG $1,000

* Table shows recipients of $1,000 or more from road builders during the period.

Table 2
Top* Individual Contributors From the RoadBuilding Industry
To Republican Governor-Elect Scott Walker

Fabick, Jere C Oconomowoc Fabco Equipment $10,000
Bechthold, Kurt & Lori Mequon Payne & Dolan $10,000
Musson, Timothy Rhinelander Musson Bros. $3,000
Bechthold, Helen B Waukesha Payne & Dolan $3,000
Mathy, Scott P Onalaska Mathy Construction $2,500
Zignego, Jacob & Jill Hartford Zignego Co. $2,500
Zignego, Robert & Erika Hartford Zignego Co. $2,000
Peterson, John M Medford James Peterson & Sons $1,700
Lunda, Larry C Black River Falls Lunda Construction $1,700
Kennedy, William E Janesville Rock Road Companies $1,600
Ottum, Bradley A Green Bay Rely Co. $1,500
Zignego, Paul Hartford Zignego Co. $1,500
Paddock, Michael W Mukwonago CH2M Hill $1,250
Soley, Michael J Colgate Miller-Bradford, Risberg $1,200
Teglia, Deborah Ann Milwaukee Black Diamond Group $1,050

*Table shows road builders who gave Walker more than $1,000 during the period.